No. 24 Texas Tech turns back clock vs. Rice
Texas Tech hosts Rice on Saturday night in a game that will bring back memories of the extinct Southwest Conference in a few ways.
Second-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard convinced the school to host a game in the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, which the Red Raiders called home from 1956-1999.
“It’s such a big day for Tech basketball, a day where we’re really going to honor the past and tradition, both coaches and players,” Beard said.
Not coincidentally, Texas Tech joined Rice in the SWC in 1956, the same year the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum opened. So the continuation of the Red Raiders-Owls series fits in with the throwback game.
No. 24 Texas Tech (8-1) will also wear throwback uniforms, donning the style worn by the 1995-96 Red Raiders, who advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to Allen Iverson-led Georgetown. That was also the final year of the SWC.
Although none of Texas Tech’s current players had even entered grade school the last time the Red Raiders played in the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, they are aware of the history of the building.
Along with being the home of Texas Tech basketball, including the 1993 Lady Raiders national championship team, the arena hosted the 1966 Midwest Region. Texas Western defeated Kansas in the regional final, 81-80, on the Miners’ way to becoming the only team from Texas to ever win the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. That Texas Western team was immortalized by the 2006 movie “Glory Road.”
“I’ve heard a lot about that coliseum growing up as a kid with Glory Road, seeing that movie as well,” Texas Tech senior forward Justin Gray said. “I’m just excited to finally play in there.”
Texas Tech and Rice (3-7) will meet for the second straight season. The Red Raiders, who lead the all-time series 64-28, edged the Owls 85-84 last season as forward Anthony Livingston hit three free throws with 2.4 seconds left in the second half. Livingston, who was a senior last season, scored 33 points in the game.
Rice guards Mike Evans and Egor Koulechov poured in 27 and 25 points, respectively. But Evans transferred to Virginia Commonwealth and Koulechov exited for Florida after the 2016-17 campaign.
The Owls promoted former assistant Scott Pera to the head coaching position in March. Pera’s Rice squad is led by junior guard Connor Cashaw, who is averaging 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Rice has only one victory against an NCAA Division I opponent this season and could struggle with Texas Tech’s depth and athleticism.
The Owls are coming off a 91-86 victory over Division II St. Edward’s on Thursday, as Cashaw tied his career high with 27 points.
“Obviously, I thought we got off to a good start today,” said Pera. “(It was) 13-4 out of the gate. (St. Edward’s) fought back but then we did a good job of expanding the lead and had a good cushion at halftime. But, I knew that they weren’t going to stop. They’re a very well coached team. They had our attention. We knew it was going to be a battle until the end. I thought our guys made some winning plays down the stretch. I’m really proud of Bishop and Connor’s effort today.”
Guard Keenan Evans leads the Red Raiders with 17.7 points and 3.6 assists per game. But Texas Tech has effectively used a large rotation so far this season as 10 players average more than 14 minutes and 4.9 points.
Texas Tech re-entered the Top 25 this week after a brief stint earlier in the season. Two weeks ago, the Red Raiders debuted at No. 22 before falling to Seton Hall 89-79 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“We’ve got to get the program to the point where we’re not talking about being ranked, we’re talking about what are we ranked,” Beard said. “And we’ve got to get the program to the point where we’re not talking about making the tournament, we’re talking about winning the tournament.”